Ah Christmas. Same time, same place, every year. Have you noticed there seems to be an entire industry developing around how to manage stress at Christmas? I tried to buy a magazine without an article on the topic last week and couldn’t find one. Clearly, the “most wonderful time of the year” is a bit much for some.
We’re hosting next week so I totally understand how it happens. The stress inducer comes from a good place. We all want to give friends and family a special day with just the right mix of great food and good fun.
Budgeting, serving meals for masses on time and crappy weather can be worrying but these stress triggers fall into one of two camps – those you can control and those you can’t.
Clearly that latter isn’t worth your energy. You can’t control the weather, other people’s behaviour, Wifi glitches (sorry kids) or the smell of blue cheese.
And some things you can mange via a bit of planning with a healthy side dish of perspective. Sometimes it’s about lowering expectations (your own and others) to ensure everyone has the opportunity to really enjoy the day – and that includes the adults who magically pull it all together
As I approach my fifth decade, I’m finally learning how to enjoy the day rather than running myself ragged trying to keep everyone else happy! Here’s a few things I’ve learned:
- Shop early – obviously. I refuse to go near town five days before Xmas. Shopping online works as does putting things away during the year. Yes, the present drawer.
- Shop local – people love receiving unique gifts with a story. We love Starfish Gallery and you can even combine local and online here Check out Ivy Wilde – way to welcome your visitors!
- Shop ahead – buy annoying accessories on sale – napkins, crackers etc. Or don’t get them. A themed table full of plastic is not compulsory. Try this idea for a setting you can make at home, naturally.
- Final food blat – some things you have to buy as close to The Day as possible. Go at 8am. And smile a lot at rude, obnoxious people – it drives them nuts. Also listening to music as you sashay down the aisles works. Nirvana, Johnny Cash, Joan Armatrading, Drake – mix it up. (This has the added benefit of blocking out annoying store music)
- Music – (see #4). Make a playlist including carols, hits from through the decades or if you can’t be bothered, play pre-made playlists such as Legendary Kiwi Classics. Boom.
- Many hands – delegate. Those teenagers /young adults have hands on the end of their arms – perfect for washing dishes, erecting gazebos and passing food. Include them. They won’t necessarily love you for it but that’s okay, they probably don’t like you playlist either! When they host, they get to choose…
- Dress appropriately – Maxi dress and jandals? Why not? If you don’t generally swan around home in heels, diamonds and a frilly pinny why do it on the 25th? Nobody cared what Mary was wearing in the first family Christmas pic.
- Tried and trusted – make meals you know work and that easily feed a crowd. Christmas Day is not a good time to test that trendy new vegan flan featuring ingredients you’ve never heard of. Barbecues sound “easy” but since a few snarlers, white bread and tomato sauce are not what most people expect nowadays (sadly), the gourmet version can be a time hog. A leg of ham is an investment up front BUT it cooks itself AND creates leftovers. Think back to your own childhood – did your mothers, Aunts and Grandmas cook ALL day? No, because a roast chicken, new potatoes and vegetables were considered enough in the 70s and 80s. And they still are.
- Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter – just thought I’d throw that in. You get it.
- The reason for the season – technically this should be first but I’ve saved the best til last. If you are a Christian, then leave time for some personal or collective refection and prayer. Don’t miss a Christmas Eve/Day service if it’s important to you. If you are not religious, you may still need some quiet time to reflect. Do it. (See #9)